Over the last 15 years I have had a growing concern about the lack of services for male victims of sexual abuse. As a correctional mental health worker, as a child protection worker and in my private practice, I regularly saw boys and men who would report that they had been abused. They would share this only after we had developed a great deal of trust. Once they disclosed I would attempt to refer them to services that could support them only to find that little if any such service exited.
In 2010 after leaving my role as the Executive Director of the Child & Youth Strategy of Nova Scotia, I decided to work towards filling this gap. I advertised through my professional network and started a group; ManTalk, for men who have been sexually abused.
The first group was small, 5 men plus myself. We met for 8 weeks and covered a range of topics in the “educational” portion of the session. The bulk of the time we spent was about sharing our stories. We would talk about how we managed to cope with the shame, anger and other feelings we shared in common that stemmed from abuse.
With the generous support of a grant from the Department of Health and Wellness we were able to hold a second 8 week session of ManTalk in the Fall of 2012.
As of November ManTalk continues to meet on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday evenings of the month. It is our hope to continue to provide a place where men can go for education and mutual support.
Since starting ManTalk I have been surprised in some ways about the diversity of men who have come. They were as young as 20 and as old as retired years. The men have been person struggling in poverty, entrepreneurs, professionals in the public and private sectors. Gay men, straight men and even trans-men have come. But thus far not a single African Nova Scotian (ANS). As an ANS I am not overly puzzled by this. ANS men are not known for seeking out professional help when it comes to health issues, particularly when it comes to Mental Health. This trend in help seeking is likely due to a history of mistrust of people in the health system.
Many ANS may also experience racial inhibitions about being physically and emotionally vulnerable with white people. These inhibitions may even be experienced when approaching ANS health care providers who have been trained and socialized in white institutions.
Perhaps there is a need for a group specifically for Black men. With stories coming out about abuse that occurred at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children we can no longer pretend that these issues don’t affect us. They certainly do.
We have both victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse within our communities. This is a shame that we carry every bit as much as our brothers in other cultural communities. It is time for us to talk openly about this fact. It is time to sort out the traumas that stem from abuse and the trauma that comes from the racism we’ve experienced. It is time to talk about how these two destructive forces have affected us and limited our capacity to be the best Men that we can be. Perhaps it is time for Blackman Talks across our ANS communities.
It is time to sort out the traumas that stem from abuse and the trauma that comes from the racism we’ve experienced.” – Robert Wright
Author – Robert Wright
Robert S. Wright, MSW, RSW is a PhD student in Sociology at Dalhousie University and a social worker in private practice. He is well known in Nova Scotia for his work in education, and child welfare. He served as the Executive Director of Nova Scotia’s Child & Youth Strategies from 2007 to 2010.